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Brain and Spinal Tumors

What are Brain and Spinal Tumors?

Brain and spinal cord tumors are abnormal growths of tissue found inside the skull or the bony spinal column. The skull and bony spinal column are the primary components of the central nervous system.

Benign tumors are noncancerous, and malignant tumors are cancerous. The central nervous system is housed within rigid, bony quarters, so any abnormal growth, whether benign or malignant, can place pressure on sensitive tissues and impair function.

Types of Tumors

Tumors that originate in the brain or spinal cord are called primary tumors. Most primary tumors are caused by out-of-control growth among cells that surround and support neurons. In a small number of individuals, primary tumors may result from specific genetic disease or from exposure to radiation or cancer-causing chemicals. The cause of most primary tumors remains a mystery. They are not contagious and, at this time, not preventable.

Symptoms of Brain Tumors

The most common symptoms of brain tumors include headaches, seizures, nausea and vomiting, vision or hearing problems, behavioral and cognitive problems, motor problems, and balance problems.

Symptoms of Spinal Cord Tumors

Symptoms of spinal cord tumors include include pain, sensory changes, and motor problems.

How are Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors Diagnosed?

The first test to diagnose brain and spinal column tumors is a neurological examination. Special imaging techniques are also used. Laboratory tests include the EEG and the spinal tap. A biopsy, a surgical procedure in which a sample of tissue is taken from a suspected tumor, helps doctors diagnose the type of tumor.

Can Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors be Treated?

Yes. The most commonly used treatments are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Doctors also may prescribe steroids to reduce the swelling inside the central nervous system.

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